Friday, August 1, 2008

A Middle Eastern Dinner

Lemony Couscous with Eggplant Salad

It was a Tuesday evening and the mid-week syndrome was just setting in. All I was looking for was a simple meal that I can have on the dinner table in half hour or so. I could have looked up on the Internet to see if Rachel Ray had any vegetarian dish to get me through the evening in under 30 min but I wasn't in the mood to browse for 30 min trying to get some ideas to make a 30 min meal :-) I opened the fridge and the same old veggies stared at me: eggplants, beans, bell peppers. Now that we have been regulars at our neighborhood farmers market, we do not have the luxury of choosing between 30 different varieties of veggies ( Pardon me, am going crazy with the 30's but some of you out there might understand :-)). We have to buy whatever is in season and now is the season for eggplants, beans, bell peppers and of course, summer squash. The produce tastes so good that I am for once not complaining about having to cook with just these few veggies for 3 straight weeks now. Anyhow, I decided to make a simple eggplant salad with no fuss, dress it simply and let the flavor of the veggie speak for itself.

Indian cooking uses a lot of eggplants and so do middle eastern and Mediterranean cooking. In my recipe here I have used a very typical middle eastern flavor, Tahini for the salad dressing. Also, I had some left over falafel in the freezer which I used to make the salad more filling. Addition of falafel is completely optional. The salad is quite substantial even in the absence of falafel. And for the carb part of this dinner, I made couscous with a tangy lemony flavor. It sure turned out to be a flavorful and delicious meal just enough to beat the mid-week syndrome at least temporarily!

A few things to note: drain and dry the eggplant really well so the salad doesn't get soggy. If you think the eggplants are soggy, sprinkle some all purpose flour along with the dry seasoning, this will help absorb the excess moisture. Also the amount of tahini can be adjusted according to your taste.


For Couscous:

11/2 instant couscous
3 cups water or vegetable broth
1 handful raisins
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp cumin seeds
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tbsp lemon juice (or more if reqiured)
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

For salad:
4 medium sized eggplant
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp tahini paste
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar or honey
Salt to taste
Falafel (optional)


  1. Heat olive oil in a pan, add fennel, cumin, raisins, garlic and onion.
  2. Saute till onions get soft and translucent.
  3. Add peas, lemon zest, thyme, salt and 3 cups of water/broth. Let it come to a boil.
  4. Now add the couscous, turn off the heat and close the pan with a lid.
  5. Let it rest for 5 min or until all the water is absorbed.
  6. Fluff the couscous with a fork, add lemon juice, pepper and stir well.
  1. Dice eggplant into 1/2" cubes, soak it in salted cold water for 15 min.
  2. Drain the water and dry it well.
  3. Mix cayenne powder, cumin powder and oil. Coat the eggplant evenly with this mixture and spread it out on a sheet pan.
  4. Bake it in a 425F pre-heated oven for 15-20 or until crisp (take care not to burn it).
  5. In a large bowl, mix rest of the ingredients, except tomatoes to form a vinaigrette.
  6. Toss in the tomatoes and the crispy eggplant with the vinaigrette. Falafel can be added at this point if you are using it.
  7. Serve this on a bed of lemony couscous.
This is my entry for AFAM event for Aug '08: Lemon, hosted by Simple Indian Food blog.

Enjoy !!!


easycrafts said...

Lovely dish...thanks for sharing and sending it to the event

Rajee said...

Thanks EC. Glad you liked it..

Srivalli said...

you have a nice blog here...added you to the blog list..:)

and hope you know abt the curry mela at my place...

Rajee said...

Thanks Srivalli. I have already sent one of my posts for the event :-)